Regarded as one of David Lean’s best films, the 1965 epic ‘Doctor Zhivago’ is a champion of accomplished filmmaking

Regarded as one of David Lean’s best films, the 1965 epic romance Doctor Zhivago is a champion of accomplished filmmaking. We find it very interesting and amusing that a film that deals with the Russian revolution has become significant to the degree of being itself labeled revolutionary. Lean set the story, based on the celebrated and at the time highly controversial and censored novel by Boris Pasternak, in the political and social turmoil of pre-World War One Russia, but used the politics and the upcoming revolution as a backdrop to what really seemed to be of essential interest to him—the small, ordinary people in the middle of all the whirlwind. Doctor Zhivago signified a brand new path for the historical epic genre—by shifting attention from events that we consider of historical importance, the film focuses on the individual experience, offering a fresh and far more intimate perspective, bringing forth the more authentic feeling of space and time, consequentially creating a story of considerable power.

For understandable reasons, the films was mostly made in Spain, where Lean insisted on building the astonishing Moscow set, which would be a remarkable achievement even if the film hadn’t hit its marks the way it did. The screenplay was written by Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia collaborator, the great playwright Robert Bolt, and the cast, led by the superb performances from Julie Christie, Omar Sharif and Rod Steiger, did a marvelous job of bringing the text to life. Maurice Jarre’s catchy score, accompanied by Freddie Young’s captivating cinematography, helped the film amount to its current status of a grand classic. A five-time Academy Award winner, Doctor Zhivago entered the books as the first major western film dealing with the Russian Revolution, but much more than that, it entered our collective mind as a piece of pure cinematic inspiration.

A monumentally important screenplay. Dear every screenwriter/filmmaker, read Robert Bolt’s screenplay for Doctor Zhivago [PDF]. (NOTE: For educational and research purposes only). The DVD/Blu-ray of the film is available at Amazon and other online retailers. Absolutely our highest recommendation.

 
An insight into the life of David Lean, whose drive and genius made him one of Britain’s greatest ever film directors. Featuring a compilation of rarely seen interviews and archive footage. Narrated by Sylvia Syms.


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David Lean is widely regarded as one of history’s greatest film directors. Epics like Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and The Bridge on the River Kwai have left an indelible mark in film history, inspiring generations of cinema goers and filmmakers. Lean had great faith in his regular film crew, once saying “good films can be made only by a crew of dedicated maniacs.” This is a profile of four of those key men—David Lean and His Dedicated Maniacs (2009).

 
Cinematographer who won three Oscars and provided David Lean with grand panoramas for Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. Each was remarkable for the beauty of its images, and for each Freddie Young won an Oscar. Although Young was thought of as having a preference for film on the grand scale and was always happiest shooting outdoors, in truth his photography had no marked style and was free of mannerisms. If his films had a common characteristic it was his professionalism, which ensured he reflected only the director’s vision. The director with whom he was most closely associated was David Lean, in partnership with whom Young won all his Oscars. Their relationship was fruitful but complex. “I got on very well with David,” recalled Young, “but he was inclined to take the credit for everything. Oh, he’d pat me on the back, give me a hug, but he seldom divulged my contributions to the world.” —Daily Telegraph

David Lean and Freddie Young photograph Ryan's Daughter in Ireland

David Lean and Freddie Young photograph Ryan’s Daughter in Ireland

Highly recommended viewing: Behind the Camera: Freddie Young. Produced, directed and filmed by Richard Blanshard. Special thanks to BBC TWO.


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A 10-minute 1965 behind-the-scenes footage of Doctor Zhivago and interviews with director David Lean, Omar Sharif and Julie Christie.


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A 7-minute behind-the-scenes short describes the making of David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago and the background of the book by Boris Pasternak.


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A promotional video for Doctor Zhivago showing the making of the film in Madrid.


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The making of Doctor Zhivago. Still photographer: Kenneth Danvers.

 
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